By Carolyn Baker
Speaking Truth to Power
Wednesday, 21 November 2007
A few moments ago I posted on my site the MSNBC version of “The Coming Consumer Crunch” which forecasts severe and painful belt-tightening for American families in 2008. Then when I checked my inbox, a Truthout bulletin listing Kelpie Wilson’s latest article “Give Thanks For Oil” appeared. One paragraph leapt out at me:
Why should we give thanks that the future holds no cheap oil? There are several reasons, but the first is that cheap oil has fueled a 50-year-long party in the industrialized West that has left us with an unsustainable economy that is wrecking the planet. The recent awareness of global warming is beginning to put a damper on our out-of-control binge, but not fast enough to slow the heating of the planet. Rising oil prices will force a cutback in consumption. Rising oil prices will also chill the fantasy of endless growth and force us to confront the reality of planetary limits.
I have no crystal ball, nor do I claim to have well-developed psychic powers, but I’d be willing to bet almost anything that next Thanksgiving season will be dramatically different from this one. A dark curtain of despair has descended, along with $100 oil, on Wall Street, and the amount of debt that the American working and middle classes are trying to juggle is, as Stan Goff so eloquently stated in his article on my site, “Middle Class Angst“, nothing less than “pre-volcanic.”
Cheap oil will allow us to travel “over the river and through the woods” to grandmother’s or someone else’s house, or we may prepare our food orgy at home using gas or electric ranges, savoring the turkey and trimmings made possible by low-cost hydrocarbon energy. While the feast will be more expensive than it was last year, its cost may pale by comparison with the price of next year’s gastronomical adventure-if indeed we can afford one. The after-dinner experience is likely to consist of television or movie viewing at home or another car trek to the local cine-plex for a new Thanksgiving Day release or two. A walk or bike ride requiring no use of hydrocarbon energy would be ideal, but it will take much more energy depletion than we are now experiencing to make that option viable for most Americans.
On Friday, millions of shoppers will descend on malls and box stores where the bells and whistles of credit card transactions will reverberate every few seconds, non-stop for perhaps seventy-two hours. Those bills will come due for those shoppers in a post-holiday hangover of dollar plummeting hysteria, monumental levels of debt, foreclosure, bankruptcy, unemployment, energy depletion, skyrocketing gas and food prices, illnesses treated without health insurance coverage-or just not treated, unprecedented levels of homelessness, and by all indications, within a few months into 2008, America will be well on the road to a re-run of 1929-or something inconceivably worse.
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